Premium Chinese EV Brand Zeekr Seeks to Raise $1 Billion in U.S. IPO, According to Sources

Premium Chinese EV Brand Zeekr Seeks to Raise $1 Billion in U.S. IPO, According to Sources

Author: Eric Walz   

Newly launched electric vehicle brand Zeekr Intelligent Technology Ltd. ("Zeekr"), which is owned by Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group ("Geely"), aims to launch an IPO in the U.S. to raise capital from investors, Reuters reported on Monday citing sources familiar with the automaker's plans. 

Zeekr filed its IPO paperwork with U.S regulators last week. The confidential filing allows the company to keep details private for now. According to sources that spoke with Reuters, Zeekr is planning to become a U.S.-listed company as early as the second quarter of 2023.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Zeekr was considering an IPO in Hong Kong as well, but the company ultimately chose the U.S. with the goal of receiving a higher valuation.

Geely announced Zeekr in March 2021 as a standalone brand to compete with Tesla, XPeng, NIO Inc and Li Auto in the premium EV category in China, which is the world's biggest market for electric vehicles. Zeekr's parent company Geely and Sweden's Volvo Cars also jointly own the electric brand Polestar.

Geely raised $500 million in the first-ever external funding round for Zeekr in Oct 2021, which valued the company at $9 billion.  

The funding round was led by Intel Capital with participation from Tesla's battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL), online entertainment group Bilibili Inc. and private equity firm Boyu Capital. Zeekr said its investors would jointly hold a 5.6% stake in the company. The group of investors also signed long-term investment partnerships with the company.

Zeekr's rivals Xpeng, NIO and Li Auto have already launched IPO's in the U.S. NIO raised $1 billion in its IPO in Sept 2018. Li Auto launched its U.S. IPO in Sept 2020, which raised $1.47 billion. While Xpeng went public in New York in Oct 2020.

Like Xpeng and NIO, Zeekr is targeting younger, tech-savvy customers that are more likely to purchase a fully-electric vehicle. These buyers want vehicles that serve an extension of their digital lives, with connectivity features and smart technologies such as automated driving.

Zeekr is also backed by Geely's billionaire founder and Chairman Li Shufu and the new EV brand is looking to tap the growing investor appetite for the sector, which helped make Tesla the world's most valuable automaker over the past several years.

The first model produced by Zeekr was the "Zeekr 001", a compact, battery powered wagon that launched in China is Oct 2021. Zeekr sold 60,600 001s in the first nine months of 2022, according to the China Passenger Car Association. The EV maker plans to introduce six additional models within five years, aiming for annual sales of 650,000 units by 2025.

The Zeekr 001 is built on Geely's Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) EV platform. The SEA is the world's first open-source electric vehicle architecture, according to Geely. The SEA can support the development of models with a wheelbase ranging from 1800mm to 3300mm.

The SEA platform is designed to support a wide variety of uses, including robotaxis, multi-purpose vehicles and logistics vehicles. The flexible architecture allows customers like Waymo to add its own autonomous driving technology to the vehicle.

All SEA-M-based Zeekr passenger vehicles will meet global five-star safety standards and will be a top safety pick requirements from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), according to Zeekr. This allows the company to sell its EVs in the U.S. and Europe. 

Last month, Alphabet's autonomous driving unit Waymo unveiled its latest autonomous robotaxi vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show that was built by Zeekr.

The futuristic electric Waymo robotaxi is based on Zeekr's M-Vision concept, which will enter volume production in 2024. It's also built on the automaker's SEA platform.

The ZEEKR M-Vision was designed by Zeekr's R&D facility, named the China Europe Vehicle Technology Center ("CEVT") in Gothenburg, Sweden, with additional support from an R&D team from China.

Also in November, Zeekr officially launched its second model, a sleek passenger van named the "009". The 510-mile range electric multi-passenger van (MPV) will be the world's first vehicle powered by an advanced battery developed by CATL called the "Qilin."

The more energy-dense Qilin battery allows an electric vehicle to travel up to 1,000 km (621 miles) on a single charge, according to CATL. The impressive range can be a game changer for the industry and lead to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles globally. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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